(For some of you, you’ll need to purge your system before reading on. Tools from Festool are not cheap. They shouldn’t be and they don’t need to be. I believe very strongly that good tools cost more, and they are worth it.)
One of the early stops we made on Wednesday at IWF was to see Festool. The company was there with a ginormous trailer it uses for stops around the country. We were only able to see half the setup because there just wasn’t enough room to open it up fully.
The first thing we looked at upon climbing the three steps onto the trailer were a few sanders; in front of us was a ETS 150/3 EQ, a ETS EC 125/3 EQ and a pair of ETS EC 150/3 EQ. OK Festool, it’s time to put a bit more differentiation into naming your tools. It’s like going to a baseball game – you need a scorecard to know who is playing, or in this case, what you’re playing with.
I think this is how it works, but I’m open for correction. All the sanders shown fit into the “Finish Sander” category at Festool, but without the EC in the title, the sanders are with regular motors, complete with brushes (the things that need to be replaced well into a tools life-cycle). With the EC in its name, the tools have brushless motors. A ETS EC 125/3 EQ is a sander with a 5″ pad, and a 150/3 (with the same alphabet bookends) has a 6″ pad.
Festool sanders – the brushless motor tools – shown at IWF are priced at $385 for the 5″ and $485 for the 6″. Yes, you can buy a random-orbit sander (RAS) for less than $80. Chances are that’s what many of you have today. And even though you may not want to, please read on.
If you’ve been sanding your projects with a homecenter-bought RAS, you owe to yourself to sand a project using a better sander such as the Festool ETS EC tools, which are low-profile sanders. There is a difference between them and a regular RAS. While sanding with a low-profile sander, your hand is significantly closer to the work. That makes a difference in how you sand and in how long you sand – there is less gyration when you’re closer to the work.
In addition, the Festool sanders have a couple of features that I find worthwhile, possibly game-changers. The standout in my thinking is the on/off switch. While a RAS has this feature, other low-profile sander generally have a paddle switch; to run the tool your hand has to depress the paddle. If your hand comes off the paddle, the sander stops. That also means that your hand has to be on top of the tool throughout the sanding process. No paddle means you can hold the sander however and get the work done. On the downside, if you drop the Festool sander with the switch set in the on position, sanding will continue as the tool moves around your floor.
A second feature that I find a great add to these Festool sanders is a pad brake. My current sander does not have a brake – if you look at our shop workbench, you’ll see many half-moon areas where the finish is lighter. That’s where I sat the sander down prior to the disc stopping. I’ve began to tap the slowing sander against my shirt or jeans to stop the action completely before placing the sander on the bench. Imagine setting it down early on a table you’re working on, only to find the embedded swirl when stain or dye is applied. Yuk!
Check out other features of the sanders if you follow the links above.
(Festool had a few other tools for everyone to see at IWF 2016. We’ll write more about them in another post. Check back.)